Sofi Awards

Cheese and chive biscuits from Charleston, vegan hot fudge from Seattle, and grilled olives from Central Italy are among 125 finalists for the Specialty Food Association's sofi Awards for the outstanding specialty foods and beverages of 2015.

Winners will be announced June 29, 2015, by Ted Allen, host of Food Network's Chopped, at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York. A sofi Award is the highest honor in the $109-billion specialty food industry. "sofi" stands for Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation.

There were 2,715 entries across 32 awards categories, including outstanding chocolate, cheese, and savory snack. The finalists were selected by a national panel of specialty food experts.

See the finalist list.

The contenders will go on to the last round of judging, which takes place during the Summer Fancy Food Show.

"A sofi means a product, and the people behind it, have arrived," says Ann Daw, president of the Specialty Food Association. This year's finalists represent a devotion to excellence and innovation in specialty food that continues to fuel our industry."

The contest, now in its 43rd year, is open to members of the Specialty Food Association, a not-for-profit trade association for food artisans, importers, and entrepreneurs.

This year's judges included top buyers from Whole Foods Market, Bristol Farms, Brooklyn Larder, Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurants, Food52 Shop, Kroger, Mouth.com, Williams-Sonoma, Fresh Direct, Brooklyn Larder, Citarella, DPI, Eataly, Formaggio Kitchen, HelloFresh, Chelsea Market Baskets, The Fresh Market, and UNFI. The panel also included a food historian, and chefs Sara Moulton of Sara's Weeknight Meals on PBS and Nick Anderer, executive chef and partner, Maialino and Marta restaurants. Journalists on the panel were from Food & Wine, Rodale, The Village Voice, New York Daily News, and Fox 5 News.

The panelists, 36 in all, tasted and evaluated the entries over eight days this spring at the Association's offices in New York.